Sustainability is one of those things in itself. I can still remember the disbelieving faces and the head-shaking when, in 2016, as a representative of the paper industry, I tried to explain the concept and meaning of sustainability to the supply chain. At that time it was not well received. Today, barely four years later, I am astonished to see that so many people have jumped on the sustainability bandwagon. Why? Because there is a trend? Because the brand owners are being challenged? Because the retail sector is putting pressure on? Who knows what the motives are. One thing I do know for sure, however, is that many of the things I see here have nothing to do with sustainability in a holistic sense. In my world, we call this free-riding. Hop on and hop off.
Sustainability is not measured by whether or not I use 100% post-consumer waste recycled paper and then boast of having produced a sustainable label. That is pure nonsense. If I then print on this paper with non-biocompatible inks or even compostable inks and my aggregates draw their electricity from fossil fuels, then it is difficult for me to call myself sustainable. At most, you could claim that the substrate is sustainable, but not the label. Because the footprint of the label results from the individual life cycle assessment of the substrate, the inks, the coatings, the printing and die-cutting units and, above all, the production site. Only when I have designed all emission factors to be sustainable can I justifiably claim to have produced a sustainable label.
It proves time and again that “the whole is always more than the sum of its parts”.
This means that what comes in sustainably does not necessarily have to come out sustainably. It is the interaction of so many factors and not just one.
Data and fact-based sustainability and, above all, an integrative life cycle assessment is the keyword. This is exactly what we have implemented at TÖPFER Kulmbach. On the one hand, all processes were converted to Cradle2Cradle, i.e. the ecotoxicity of processes and materials was reduced to a minimum. The entire company is C2C silver certified. Then all processes were examined for the individual LCA’s. We know the ecological footprint of our materials and substrates.
Well, that was not enough for us. We had the world’s first print LCA calculator built for us and can calculate the total footprint of each individual label exactly. Whether in offset or gravure printing. In our very closed supply chain collaboration, we can then work on optimizations and make substrates, materials, processes more sustainable. Fact and data based. Because we know what we are doing.
If you too would like to know how we do it, then we look forward to hearing from you: https://www.toepfer.de/en/contact.html